Are Israel and Iran Slouching Toward War?

Online activity points to rising concern about a parallel conflict in Syria with regional implications.

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Last week, the Israeli military continued its campaign against Iranian forces in Syria, as it reportedly conducted strikes against Iranian targets in Damascus. Some analysts warn that the Israeli offensive risks escalating into a parallel war between Tehran and Jerusalem, one focused on Syria but that could spill over into a wider regional conflict.

Indicators from the digital realm suggest such concerns have merit. First, Hebrew-speaking internet users, likely in Israel, are showing increased interest in web pages related to Iran’s defense and military capabilities. That means that Israelis are either 1) increasingly worried about the threat posed by Iran, or 2) scrutinizing their government’s campaign against the Islamic Republic. Whatever the motivation, the increased activity reinforces the notion that tensions are mounting.

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Moreover, last week featured a spike in digital concern about Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed militant group based in Lebanon. The organization’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, gave a three-hour televised interview, in which he threatened Israel over its continued involvement in the Syrian conflict. His bellicose words appear to have resonated, triggering the largest surge in online activity -- in both Arabic and English -- related to Hezbollah in several months.

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These signals paint a picture of an increasingly fraught security situation between Israel and Iran. Syria remains the main flashpoint, but trends in public online activity indicate growing concern over the potential for regional spillover.